Art Design Fashion Luxury People Town Houses

Mary Martin London Scarves +

The House of the Red and White Lions  

“We are having the best time ever!” proclaims the haute couture artist. “I’ve just won a Global Ovation Lifetime Achievement for Fashion!” Bravo! Mary is the Valkyrie of fashion residing over her very own Valhalla. This ring cycle ain’t gonna end anytime soon. Late to the game, the BBC is falling over itself to interview her and beef up its breaking news. Queue. Join. Next. The accolades keep pouring in: Costume Designer of the Year at the Global Community and Business Star Awards and Style Icon Honoree Excellence in Fashion Couture courtesy of the Global Style Icon Awards, to name yet another two.

Mary exclaims, “I would like to say thank you to the Global Style Icon Awards for awarding me the best designer – costumer designer! – for 2020 and 2021. I’d also like to say thank you to the Foreign Office for letting me do my virtual show in the building which was an amazing shoot in a beautiful place. And, yeah, thank you thank you that’s all I can say – I’m happy!” Mary explains more about that epic Foreign and Commonwealth Office shoot, “History had inspired me. I realised that Ignatius Sancho was an inhouse slave but was later set free and he was the first black millionaire in Britain. And he and his wife used to sell tobacco and everything from their shop which stood on the site of the Foreign Office on King Charles Street.”

She rolls, “I was the first black woman to do a shoot in there. What I did was reverse fashion and I put the black models on the stairs like they were the kings and queens. I wanted to show good images of black people in regal clothes – like black excellence – I’m a fantasiser! You should always be proud of yourself and who you are really.” Never resting on her many many laurels, the designer shares, “I love digital art! I started doing the art and people started to love my art just like they love my clothes so I thought why not? I’m doing some beautiful images and I’m also putting them on clothes as well as screen prints to hang on your walls.” That’s when she’s not conjuring up fluffy puffball dresses, a style Mary invented. It’s overture overload! A pressed foil wrap dress – another Mary Martin London trademark design – clings to a tailor’s dummy in the studio at the top of her townhouse, her very own Isolde’s Tower. And next season’s must have accessory is in the making: the outsized unisex bag. But her suitcases are packed: “I love Ghana! I’m going over there as soon as I can to do some fashion!”

Right now she’s busy sewing up a storm: a private commission to design and make individual scarves for an Irish mother and her two daughters. The scarves feature Mary’s signature Slaves in the Woods pattern in each client’s favourite colourway. Welcome to the undisputed territory of Maryland. Earlier, the designer was partying with R+B singer Mark Morrison. Next, Kofi arrives and before long Mary is duetting down the corridor with the legendary rock singer: “Black is the colour of my skin | Black is the life that I live | And I’m so proud to be the colour that God made me | And I just gotta sing black is my colour | Yeah couldn’t be no other oh no | Black is my colour / Yeah yeah | Couldn’t be no other | No no no.” Kofi laughs, “Everybody loves Mary!” American dance and house singer Kathy Brown of “Happy People” and “Give It Up” fame rings: “It’s going to be a good year!”

Mary has been jazzing up her atelier of late. She scrawled “And behind the smile, beneath the makeup, I’m just a girl who wishes for the future” across a Katherine Hepburn mirror in her salon. And “Life is better when you’re laughing” over a Marilyn Monroe mirror in her studio. A humongous two metre tall carnation precariously balances over her materials cupboards. Like everything about Mary Martin London, it’s larger than life, carried on huge waves of Wagnerian music crashing on the ocean floor. Not everyone has “Talking to God” as their WhatsApp tagline. Not everyone is Mary Martin London. An afternoon in her company: well, it’s like living life in inverted commas.

Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + Mary Martin Men


Mary Martin London Graduation © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“My God is my foundation in whom I serve,” declares fashion designer Mary Martin. And what God given talent she possesses – in reams! Electrifying the catwalks, flooding the fashion spreads and raining down pure glamour on clients in recent years with her haute couture dresses, all that’s left is one small step for a woman, one giant leap for mankind. Yes, the long awaited much anticipated greatly hoped for men’s collection. Tah dah! Mary Martin Men is finally launching! And you saw copyrighted glimpses of it here first. The official landing will be at Africa Fashion Week London.

Mary Martin London Best Fashion Designer Award © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

But first, it’s the Saturday morning Vernissage. Not your ordinary time for a Private View but this is no ordinary designer. The venue? Screw art galleries. Stuff museums. Why it’s Mary’s Victorian townhouse cum fashion house cum studio. A framed music award on the staircase winks at Mary’s past: she was a successful pop music manager. Rhythm is a dancer in the blood. Her brother is Technotronic’s MC Eric of ‘Pump Up the Jam’ fame. There are plenty more awards in the drawing room. More of them later. Lot’s more. A quick peak into the first floor kitchen confirms this is no ordinary house: check out the maquette mannequins and metallic cupboards.

Mary Martin London Queen Aidia Fabric © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Onwards and upwards to the top floor. Music is blasting, models are changing, agents are calling, photographers are facetiming, and somewhere in the midst of the mayhem Mary emerges, looking sublime and very summery in a wrap dress. The mercury has surpassed 30. Aidia, the Swiss top model and a Mary Martin London favourite, is on her way. The final fittings are next week. Like, hours away.

Mary Martin Men Screen Print © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Time for the big reveal. The inaugural collection of Mary Martin Men commemorates the quadricentary of the first African slaves arriving in America. ‘Slaves in the Woods’ is her principle pattern. She has screen printed it onto vintage silk which itself has an Ancient Egyptian pattern. “Egypt was where it all began,” observes Mary. The joker pattern is used for lining. “I may be the Queen of the Catwalk,” she nods, ”but I like to have a laugh!” Another pattern she uses in the collection is ‘Mary Scissorhands’ featuring female heads as scissor handles.

Mary Martin Men Bomber Jacket © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Mary Martin Men Jacket Detail © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Mary Martin Men Haarlem Trousers © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Mary Martin Men Fabric © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Mary Martin Men Coat Pocket © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“It’s all about original ideas,” says Mary, “nothing old fashioned. I’ve taken the Haarlem trousers to another level!” The legging material around the thigh emphasises the male form. The fly is on the outside. “This is the new 2019 fly – on – the – side! It’s amazing!” A man bag in the detachable outsized coat collar is one of many other innovations. Injecting yet more urban chic into the collection is a retro bomber jacket. No show is complete without a Mary Martin London statement dress. Mary goes for it: “The lady is going to look naked! My Slaves in the Woods print will be on a body stocking looking like a tattoo! I’m going to do her hair like Medusa. I’m using my signature fluffy tulle to give her a surreal Afro! I see the visuals in my head. I dream I’m making the freedom woman!”

Mary Martin Men Mary Scissorhands Pattern © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

As always, Mary’s fashion is imbued with multiple meanings and enriched with multilayering. Take the dominant colours (or rather one colour and one lack of colour) of the collection. Mary relates, “I focussed on the art of design and print… it’s a very natural feeling. I researched the Himba Tribe in Namibia. I discovered a lot of orange face paint and hair mud. It was very exciting! Orange is for the vibrance of earth and black is for the unseen missing elements.” Later she will comment, “Orange represents the sun, the happiness outside.” It’s official. Orange and black are the new black.

Mary Martin Men Pattern © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Remember those awards in the drawing room? Well, what hasn’t Mary won? Numerous International Achievers Awards (Best Female Designer; Fashion Icon 2018, International Achiever 2017, Innovator of the Year 2016), two Fabulous Magazine Outstanding Contributions to Fashion Awards, Cancel Cancer Africa Recognition Award, Inspirational Fashion Couture Special Award 2018, Mercedes Benz African Fashion Festival Best Designer 2015 and Miss Jamaica UK Best Dress 2013. Her most recent prize recognises her growing worldwide status: Scotland’s International Awards Best Fashion Designer 2019.

Mary Martin Men Jacket Pocket © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“It’s been a whirlwind year!” exclaims Mary. “You should always have challenges in life!” As well as launching her first ever men’s collection, she graduated from the University of East London with a Fashion and Textiles BA. “Draw how you can draw,” advised her lecturer Emma Ceary adding, “you have a natural talent!” Another lecturer, Lesley Robertson, told her “I’m really proud of you and all of your achievements.” Dr Sian-Kate Mooney of the University said, “It was an honour to teach you Mary. You have worked hard and listened and learned and have given yourself the gift of knowledge.” Mary danced her way across the stage at the graduation ceremony.

Mary Martin Men Egyptian Silk © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“And that’s the show and that’s my excitement! Thank you Jesus!” praises Mary. She knows those who look to him are radiant. And really, radiance is key to Mary Martin Men. It’s a sumptuously rich collection. There’s more. Things have come full circle. These days Mary may be “styling high class singers” but she herself is the subject of an Afrobeats hit by Déjà Vu.

Mary Martin Men Collar © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley